Monday, November 05, 2012

Other Lives stunning at El Rey Theatre

My concert review was originally published on The Orange County Register Web site on Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012. A special "thank you" to my wife Kim for taking the photos too!

Other Lives at the El Rey Theatre on Nov. 3, 2012.
No band bridges the vast gap between Radiohead’s experimental brilliance and Sigur Rós’ symphonic splendor with the creative finesse of the Oklahoma-bred band Other Lives.

It has taken nonstop touring — including opening for Radiohead on that band’s North American tour for much of early 2012 and two standout performances in Coachella this past April — plus support from influential radio stations such as KCRW, but the genre-bending outfit seems to have finally and fully emerged from the underground. Celebrating the quintet’s 10th anniversary, Other Lives headlined a packed El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles on Saturday night (Nov. 3, 2012) with the artistry of groundbreakers.

The ensemble has long had an impressively mystic sound, but its burgeoning confidence — especially from lead singer and multi-instrumentalist Jesse Tabish — was the additional ingredient that made this performance even stronger than two gigs I caught earlier this year. For 70 magical minutes, Other Lives blended orchestral and world music with rock and folk in ways that continue to push modern music’s reach like few others.

There were countless highlights, from the melancholy post-psychedelic textures of “Weather” and the Middle Eastern-tinged “Desert” (treated to dynamic drumming from Colby Owens) to one of the greatest songs ever penned about their native state, the potent “Dust Bowl III,” which in its first half recalls Harvest-era Neil Young before the song explodes with the use of keyboards, bass, acoustic and electric guitars, drums, trumpet and something from this writer’s vantage point that looked like authentic antler horns with bells attached.

While the band’s forte remains those lavish arrangements where keyboards, dynamic rhythms, horns, strings and harmonies collide, don’t underestimate Tabish’s ability to scale it all back to basics. The encore began with him seated at his keyboard, where he played a sparse, bewitching version of “Black Tables.” Earlier in the night, that same nuanced approach came via an elegant full-band take on “For 12,” with Tabish adding acoustic guitar, his voice often reaching up to a falsetto and further enhanced by cellist Jenny Hsu’s supportive singing, all amid an eerie Spaghetti western soundscape.

Kristianne Bautista of Oren Lyons.
Of the two openers on the bill, the clear audience favorite was L.A.’s own Oren Lyons, formed earlier this year and also championed by KCRW. Lead singer Kristianne Bautista’s richly distinctive soprano added heft to the material delivered by six musicians around her. Mixing ’60s jazz, neo-classical and rock, the ensemble’s brief 30-minute turn was impressive. Sandwiched between that and Other Lives, Copenhagen’s Indians proved an ill-fitting one-man-show, in which the singer-guitarist-keyboardist was in command of a high-reaching tenor that nonetheless lacked feeling or originality.

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